George E. Goodfellow

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George E. Goodfellow
George E. Goodfellow
Dr. George E. Goodfellow
Born (1855-12-23)December 23, 1855[1]
Downieville, California
Died December 7, 1910(1910-12-07) (aged 54)[1]
Los Angeles, California
Occupation Physician
Known for First civilian trauma surgeon; authority on gunshot wounds; first surgeon to perform a laparotomy to treat gunshot wounds; first to perform a perineal prostatectomy; published first surface rupture map of an earthquake in North America; first known use of spinal anesthesia; pioneered the use of sterile techniques in treating gunshot wounds.
Spouse(s) Katherine Colt, Mary Elizabeth
Children Edith, George M.

Dr. George Emory Goodfellow (December 23, 1855 – December 7, 1910) was a physician and naturalist in the American Old West who developed a reputation as the United States' foremost expert in treating bullet wounds. As a physician in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, he treated many gunshot wounds to both lawmen and outlaws. He performed the first recorded laparotomy for treating an abdominal gunshot wound and was the first surgeon to perform a perineal prostatectomy to remove an enlarged prostate. He pioneered the use of spinal anesthesia and sterile techniques in treating gunshot wounds and is regarded as the first civilian trauma surgeon.

Goodfellow was a pugnacious, "brilliant and versatile"[2] physician with wide-ranging interests. During his life he not only practiced medicine, he studied earthquakes and published the first surface rupture map of an earthquake in North America, interviewed Geronimo, conducted research into the venom of Gila monsters, and played a role in brokering a peace settlement in the Spanish–American War.[3] He was also a skilled boxer and in his first year at the United States Naval Academy, he became the Academy boxing champion, but was dismissed for kicking and beating the first African-American to attend the institution. In 1889, he got into a fight with another man and stabbed him, but was found to have acted in self-defense.

Goodfellow treated Virgil Earp and Morgan Earp after they were wounded in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. His testimony later helped absolve the Earps and Doc Holliday of murder charges when they shot and killed three outlaw Cowboys and supported their contention that they acted lawfully. He treated Virgil again when he was maimed in an ambush and rushed to Morgan's side when he was mortally wounded by an assassin.

He left Tombstone in 1889 and established a successful practice in Tucson before moving to San Francisco in 1899 and opened a medical office there. He lost his practice and all of his personal belongings in the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and returned to the Southwest where he became the Chief Surgeon for the Southern Pacific Railroad in Mexico. He fell ill during 1910 and died later that year in Los Angeles.

Early life and education[edit]

The Pacific Mail Steamship Company ship S.S. Golden Gate. It entered the San Francisco to Panama City service in November 1851 and was lost off Manzanillo, Mexico on July 27, 1862.

Goodfellow's father, Milton J. Goodfellow, came to California in 1853 to mine for gold. His mother, Amanda Baskin Goodfellow, followed two years later via boat, mule over the Panama Isthmus, and then on the steamship S.S. Golden Gate to San Francisco.[4] Goodfellow was born on December 23, 1855 in Downieville, California, then one of the largest cities in the state.[5] His parents also had two daughters, Kitty and Bessie.[6] His father became a mining engineer and maintained an interest in medicine.[5] Goodfellow grew up around California Gold Rush mining camps and developed a deep interest in both mining and medicine.[5] When he was 12, his parents sent him across the country to a private school in Pennsylvania.[7] He returned to California two years later where he attended the California Military Academy in Oakland. He was then accepted to the University of California at Berkeley where he studied Civil Engineering for one year[8] before he applied to U.S. Naval Academy. In 1870 he was living with his family in Treasure City, Nevada, where his father was a mining superintendent.[6]

Dismissed from Naval Academy[edit]

Goodfellow declined a Congressional appointment to West Point and instead accepted an appointment from Nevada congressional representative C. W. Kendall to the United States Naval Academy, arriving there in June 1872.[4] Goodfellow became the boxing champion at the Academy[9] and was well accepted by his fellow midshipmen. Like many of his fellow cadets, he took exception to the presence of the Academy's first black cadet, John H. Conyers. While marching, Goodfellow and another Cadet began kicking and punching Conyers, who had been shunned and constantly and brutally harassed since his arrival. News of the incident and the constant hazing experienced by Conyers leaked to the newspapers, and a three-man board was convened to investigate the attacks. Goodfellow denied any wrongdoing and Conyers claimed he could not identify any of his attackers. The board nonetheless concluded that "His persecutors are left then without any excuse or palliation except the inadmissible one of prejudice." The review board believed the Academy needed to give Croyden a fair chance at succeeding on his own merits, and recommended that strong measures should be taken. In the end Goodfellow and two others were dismissed from the Academy.[10]

Goodfellow immediately set about trying to get reinstated. His mother Amanda wrote a personal letter to first lady Julia Grant, who was known to consider blacks as inferior and whose family had owned slaves before the Civil War. Amanda closed her letter by reminding the First Lady of their mutual friends.[5][7][10] Goodfellow also appealed to his mother's uncle and United States Attorney Robert Baskin for assistance. Baskin interceded with his friend President U.S. Grant, who promised to reinstate Goodfellow, but the uncle left his office and Grant was busy seeking reelection.[4][11] None of the efforts for reinstatement proved fruitful.

Medical education[edit]

Concerned about disappointing his father, Goodfellow sought out his cousin, Dr. T. H. Lashells, in Meadville, Pennsylvania, and read for medicine. He found he had a ready aptitude for the medical field and moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where an uncle lived.[7] He attended Wooster University Medical School[11][12] and on February 23, 1876,[8] he graduated with honors.[7]


On November 4, 1876, Goodfellow married Katherine ("Kate") Colt, daughter of Henry Tracy Colt, the proprietor of Meadville's Colt House,[13] who he had met while reading medicine in Meadville.[8] Ironically, she was a cousin to Samuel Colt, inventor of the Colt revolver, a weapon that would later play a significant role in Goodfellow's medical practice.[8] The Goodfellows left Meadville immediately after they were married during the week of Nov. 9, 1876,[6] and traveled to Oakland, California.

The Goodfellows had a daughter, Edith,[1] born on October 22, 1879 in Oakland, California. They also had a son, George Milton, born in May 1882 in Tombstone, who died from "general bleeding" on July 18.[6][14] Kate Goodfellow died on August 16, 1891, at her mother-in-law's home in Oakland. Goodfellow and his daughter Edith caught the train to Oakland from Benson, Arizona, and when his wife passed away, he and Edith returned to Tombstone before he relocated to Tucson and took over the practice of his deceased friend, Dr. John C. Handy. Goodfellow remarried Mary Elizabeth sometime before March 1906.[6]

Early career[edit]

Goodfellow briefly opened a medical practice in Oakland. Goodfellow was soon invited by his father Milton to join him in Yavapai County, Arizona Territory, where he was a mining executive for Peck, Mine and Mill.[5] Goodfellow worked as the company physician for the next two years in Prescott[1] until he secured permission to serve with Custer's 7th Cavalry but his orders to join the unit were delayed and he missed the Battle of Little Big Horn on June 25–26, 1876.[15] Instead, he joined the U.S. Army as acting assistant surgeon at Ft. Whipple in Prescott.[1] In 1879 he became for a brief period the contract surgeon at Ft. Lowell near Tucson.[8]

Medical practice in Tombstone[edit]

George E. Goodfellow practiced in Tombstone, Arizona for 11 years.
Goodfellow arrived in Tombstone in 1880 as the town was booming during its silver mining peak.
Dr. Goodfellow's office was on the second floor of the Crystal Palace Saloon, seen here in 1885.
The Crystal Palace Hotel in 2012.

In 1880 Goodfellow decided to open his own medical practice. On September 15, 1880, he canceled his Army contract and he and his wife relocated to the silver boom town of Tombstone, Arizona Territory.[7] There were already 12 doctors in the town of 2,000 residents, but only he and three others had medical school diplomas.[11]

The town was less than a year old and its population had exploded from about 100 residents in March 1879 when it consisted mostly of wooden shacks and tents. By the fall of 1879 more than a thousand hardy miners and merchants lived in a canvas and matchstick camp built on top of the richest silver strike in the United States.[16] On September 9, 1880, the richly appointed Grand Hotel was opened, adorned with fine oil paintings, thick Brussels carpets, toilet stands, elegant chandeliers, silk-covered furniture, walnut furniture, and a kitchen with hot and cold running water.[17]

At age 25, Goodfellow opened an office on the second floor of the Crystal Palace Saloon,[18] one of the most luxurious saloons in the West.[19] It was also the location of offices for other notable officials including County Coroner Dr. H. M. Mathews, Deputy U.S. Marshal Virgil Earp, attorney George W. Berry,[20] Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan, and Justice of the Peace Wells Spicer.[21] When he wasn't busy tending to patients, he walked down the outside stairs to the saloon below, where he spent many hours drinking, playing Faro, and betting on horse races, foot races, wrestling and boxing matches.[18] He got along well with the hardscrabble miners, the elite of Tombstone, and characters like the notoriously drunk lawyer Allen English.[4]

Goodfellow lost his office when the saloon and most of downtown Tombstone burned to the ground during a large fire on May 26, 1882. The building was quickly rebuilt and the Crystal Palace earned a reputation for its gambling, entertainment, food and the best brands of wines, liquors, and cigars available 24 hours a day.[22] Goodfellow cared for the indigent and was reimbursed by the county at the rate of from $8000 to $12,000 per year.[23]

Tombstone was a dangerous frontier town at the time and the scene of considerable conflict that produced many of Goodfellow's patients. Most of the leading cattlemen and the numerous outlaw Cowboys were Confederate sympathizers and Democrats from Southern states, especially Missouri and Texas.[24] The mine and business owners, miners, townspeople and city lawmen including brothers Virgil, Morgan, and Wyatt Earp were largely Republicans from the Northern states. There was also the fundamental conflict over resources and land, of traditional, Southern-style, “small governmentagrarianism of the rural Cowboys contrasted to Northern-style industrial capitalism.[25] The Tombstone Daily Journal asked in March 1881 how a hundred outlaws could terrorize the best system of government in the world, asking, "Can not the marshal summon a posse and throw the ruffians out?"[26]:119 Goodfellow later described Tombstone as the "condensation of wickedness."[4]

Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan favored the Cowboys and rural ranchers.[27] He was opposed by the Earps who held authority at different times on the federal, county and local level. Relationships and loyalty could and did change quickly. Cowboy Frank Stilwell was a known cattle rustler and was briefly an assistant to Sheriff Behan. Cowboy and outlaw Texas Jack Vermillion was a friend of the Earps who Wyatt Earp deputized after Virgil was maimed in an ambush by other Cowboys.

Authority on gunshot wounds[edit]

On July 2, 1881, President James Garfield was shot by Charles J. Guiteau. One bullet was thought later to have possibly lodged near his liver but could not be found.[28] Standard medical practice at the time called for physicians to insert their unsterilized fingers into the wound to probe and locate the path of the bullet.[29] Surgically opening abdominal cavities to repair gunshot wounds,[30] Germ theory, and Dr. Joseph Lister's technique for "antisepsis surgery" using dilute carbolic acid, which had been first demonstrated in 1865, had not yet been accepted as standard practice by prevailing medical authorities.[30] Sixteen doctors attended to Garfield and most probed the wound with their fingers or dirty instruments.[31] Historians agree that massive infection was a significant factor in President Garfield's death.[29][32]

On July 4, two days after the President was shot, a miner outside Tombstone was shot with a 32-caliber Colt revolver in the abdomen. Goodfellow was able to treat the man nine days later, on July 13, 1881, when he performed the first laparotomy to treat a bullet wound.[23] Goodfellow noted that the abdomen showed symptoms of a serious infection, including distension from gas, tumefaction, redness and tenderness.[23] The man's intestines were covered with a large amount of "purulent stinking lymph." The patient small and large intestine were perforated by six holes, wounds very similar to President Garfield's injury.[33]:M-9 Goodfellow followed Lister's recommended procedure for sterilizing everything: his hands, instruments, sponges, and the area around the wound. He successfully repaired the miner's wounds and the miner, unlike the President, survived.[4][11] A laparotomy is still the standard procedure for treating abdominal gunshot wounds today.[34]

Goodfellow traveled many hours to treat cowboys miles from Tombstone and performed surgery under primitive conditions.[35] He traveled to Bisbee, 30 miles (48 km) from Tombstone, in January 1889[23] to treat a patient struck in the abdomen by a bullet from a 44 Colt. At midnight, he operated on the patient stretched out a billiard table. Goodfellow removed a .45-calibre bullet, washed out the cavity with two gallons of hot water, folded the intestines back into position, stitched the wound closed with silk thread, and ordered the patient to take to a hard bed for recovery.[23] He wrote about the operation: "I was entirely alone having no skilled assistant of any sort, therefore was compelled to depend for aid upon willing friends who were present—these consisting mostly of hard-handed miners just from their work on account of the fight. The anesthetic was administered by a barber, lamps held, hot water brought and other assistance rendered by others."[4] The man lived for 18 hours after surgery, long enough to write out his will, but died of shock.[23]

Goodfellow pioneered the use of sterile techniques in treating gunshot wounds,[5] washing the patient's wound and his hands with lye soap or whisky.[4] He became America's leading authority on gunshot wounds[7] and was widely recognized for his skill as a surgeon.

Thesis on abdominal wounds[edit]

Goodfellow was the first physician known to operate successfully on abdominal gunshot wounds.[11] During his career, he published 13 articles about abdominal bullet wounds based on treatments and techniques he developed while practicing medicine in Tombstone.

His articles were laced with colorful commentary describing his medical practice in the primitive west.[18] He wrote, "In the spring of 1881 I was a few feet distant from a couple of individuals [Luke Short and Charlie Storms] who were quarreling. They began shooting. The first shot took effect, as was afterward ascertained, in the left breast of one of them, who, after being shot, and while staggering back some 12 feet, cocked and fired his pistol twice, his second shot going into the air, for by that time he was on his back."[36]

He included a description of the bullet wounds he most often treated: "The .44 and .45 caliber Colt revolver, .45-60 and .44-40 Winchester rifles and carbines were the toys with which our festive or obstreperous citizens delight themselves."[35] The .45 caliber Colt Peacemaker round contained 40 grains of black powder that shot a thumb-sized, 250 grain slug at the relatively slow velocity of 910 feet per second. But the large bullet could smash through a 3.75 inches (95 mm) pine board at 50 yards (46 m).[30] The nearly half-inch lead slug used at the time did considerably more damage than modern steel-jacketed bullets.[36]

Goodfellow saw the effect of these large caliber weapons up close and was very familiar with their powerful impact. In an article "Cases of Gunshot Wound of the Abdomen Treated by Operation" in the Southern California Practitioner of 1889 he wrote, "the maxim is, shoot for the guts; knowing death is certain, yet sufficiently lingering and agonizing to afford a plenary sense of gratification to the victor in the contest."[4] His article described five patients with penetrating abdominal wounds, four of whom survived, and the laparotomies he completed on all of them. He wrote, "it is inexcusable and criminal to neglect to operate upon a case of gunshot wound in the abdominal cavity."[37]

Goodfellow learned that the caliber of the bullet determined whether a medical procedure was needed. If the bullet was .32-caliber or larger, it "inflicted enough damage to necessitate immediate operation." He noted, "Given a gunshot wound of the abdominal cavity with one of the above caliber balls [.44 and .45], if the cavity be not opened within an hour, the patient by reason of hemorrhage is beyond any chance of recovery.”[36] W. W. Whitmore wrote in an October 9, 1932, article in the Arizona Daily Star that Goodfellow "presumably had a greater practice in gunshot wounds of the abdomen than any other man in civil life in the country."[8]

Conceived of bulletproof fabrics[edit]

Faro dealer Luke Short shot Charlie Storms in the heart, but he didn't bleed. Goodfellow found a silk handkerchief had stopped the bullet.

On February 25, 1881, Faro dealer Luke Short and professional gambler and gunfighter Charlie Storms got into an argument. Storms had successfully defended himself several times with his pistol. He had inaccurately sized Short up as someone he could "slap in the face without expecting a return." Bat Masterson initially defused a confrontation between the two men, but Storms returned, yanked Short off the sidewalk, and pulled his cut-off Colt .45 pistol. Luke Short was quicker and pulled his own pistol, shooting Charlie Storms twice before he hit the ground.[38] The first shot was so close it set fire to Storms' shirt.[39] Short's actions were ruled self-defense.

Examining Storms afterward, Goodfellow found that he had been shot in the heart, but was surprised to see "not a drop of blood" exiting the wound. He discovered that the bullet had ripped through the man's clothes and into a folded silk handkerchief in his breast pocket. He extracted the intact bullet from the wound with the silk wrapped around it.[4] He found two thicknesses of silk wrapped around the bullet and two tears where it had struck the vertebral column.[7]

Another case that attracted his attention was an incident when Assistant City Marshal Billy Breakenridge shot Billy Grounds from 30 feet (9.1 m) with a shotgun, killing him. Goodfellow examined Billy and found that two buckshot grains had penetrated Billy's thick Mexican felt hat band embroidered with silver wire. These two buckshot and two others penetrated his head and flattened against the posterior wall of the skull, and others penetrated the face and chest. He also noted that one of the grains had passed through two heavy wool shirts and a blanket-lined canvas coat and vest before coming to rest deep in his chest. But Goodfellow was fascinated to find in the folds of a Chinese silk handkerchief around Grounds' neck two shotgun pellets but no holes.[4][7]

In a third instance, he described a man who was shot through the right side of the neck, narrowly missing his carotid artery. A portion of the silk neckerchief was carried into the wound by the bullet, preventing a more serious injury, but the scarf was undamaged.[7] To Goodfellow, the protection offered by the silk was remarkable. He noted that the bullet that struck Storms would ordinarily have passed through the body. The second case of the buckshot best illustrated the protection afforded by silk.[7]

In 1887, Goodfellow documented these cases in an article titled "Notes on the Impenetrability of Silk to Bullets"[7][40] for the Southern California Practitioner. He experimented with designs for bullet-resistant clothing made of multiple layers of silk.[41] By 1900, gangsters were wearing $800 silk vests to protect themselves.[42]

Other medical firsts[edit]

Goodfellow was an innovative physician who was forced to experiment with differing methods than those utilized by physicians in more civilized eastern practices.[35] He pioneered the idea of treating tuberculosis patients by exposing them to Arizona's dry climate. Goodfellow performed the first appendectomy in the Arizona Territory. During 1891 at St. Mary’s Hospital in Tucson, he performed what many consider to be the first[4][35][43] perineal prostatectomy, an operation he developed to treat bladder problems by removing the enlarged prostate. He traveled extensively across the United States for several years, training other physicians to perform the procedure. Among these was Dr. Hugh Young, a well-known and respected urology professor at Johns Hopkins University. Goodfellow completed 78 operations and only two patients died, a remarkable level of success for the time period.[4] He was among the first surgeons anywhere, let alone on the frontier of the United States, who used spinal anesthetic, which he improvised by crushing cocaine crystals in spinal fluid and reinjecting the mixture into the patient's spine.[4]

Personal reputation[edit]

Along with being an extremely talented and innovative surgeon, Goodfellow developed a reputation as hard-drinking, irascible ladies-man.[30] He kept company with some of the courtesans who frequented the Crystal Palace saloon. He was also known to be a vocal supporter of the Earps, town business owners, and miners,[4] but that did not keep the rural Cowboys from seeking his services during the eleven years his office was located in Tombstone. He delivered babies, set miners' broken bones,[7] treated gunshot wounds to cowboys and lawmen alike, and provided medical care to anyone in need. Tombstone had a large number of silver mines during its peak production period, and Goodfellow entered smoke-filled mining shafts on more than one occasion to help treat trapped and injured miners.[35] The Tombstone Epitaph said Goodfellow had "both skill and nerve, both of which were brought into requisition on Contention Hill" when he personally rescued unconscious miners in late May 1886.[23]

During the Tombstone fire on June 1881, George W. Parsons was helping to tear down a balcony to prevent the fire from spreading when he was struck by the falling wood.[44] Parson's upper lip and nose were pierced by a splinter of wood, severely flattening and deforming his nose. Goodfellow devised a wire framework and in a series of treatments successfully restored Parson's nose to his pre-injury profile.[8] He refused payment because Parsons had been hurt as he was assisting others.[35]

Goodfellow was not a man to be taken lightly. In August, 1889, he got into a fight while drunk during which he stabbed Frank White with a triple-edged, 4 inches (100 mm) Poignard dagger.[45][46] White was seriously injured but Goodfellow was not arrested, as the judge ruled Goodfellow acted in self-defense.[30]

Interest in Gila Monsters[edit]

Goodfellow proved the venomous Gila Monster didn't kill people as was commonly thought.

In addition to his medical practice and related studies, Goodfellow had other scientific interests. He published articles about rattlesnake and Gila monster bites in the Scientific American and the Southern California Practitioner.[8] He was among the first to research the actual effects of Gila monster venom when the lizard was widely feared for its deadly bite. The Scientific American reported in 1890 that "The breath is very fetid, and its odor can be detected at some little distance from the lizard. It is supposed that this is one way in which the monster catches the insects and small animals which form a part of its food supply—the foul gas overcoming them." Goodfellow offered to pay local residents $5.00 for Gila monster specimens. He bought several and collected more on his own. In 1891 he purposefully provoked one of his captive lizards into biting him on his finger. The bite made him ill and he spent the next five days in bed, but he completely recovered. When Scientific American ran another ill-founded report on the lizard's ability to kill people, he wrote in reply and described his own studies and personal experience. He wrote that he knew several people who had been bitten by Gila monsters but had not died from the bite.[47]

Community activities[edit]

While Goodfellow lived in Tombstone, he was a founder in 1880 of the plush Tombstone Club located on the second floor of the Ritchie Building. The rooms were furnished with reading tables and chairs. The 60 male members had access to more than 70 publications.[48] He also helped organize the Tombstone Scientific Society.[21] He was active in other community affairs, and invested in the Huachuca Water Company, which in 1881 built a 23 miles (37 km)-long pipeline from the Huachuca Mountains to Tombstone, along with a community swimming pool.[16]

Cowboy practice[edit]

Goodfellow treated a number of notorious outlaw cowboys in Tombstone, Arizona during the 1880s.[35] Curly Bill Brocius was drunk when he got into an argument with Lincoln County War veteran Jim Wallace, who had insulted Brocius' friend and ally, Tombstone Deputy Marshal Billy Breakenridge. Brocius took offense and even though Wallace apologized, Brocius threatened to kill him. When Wallace left, Curly Bill followed him and Wallace shot him though the cheek and neck.[49] Goodfellow treated Brocious, who recovered after several weeks. Marshal Breakenridge arrested Wallace but the court ruled he acted in self-defense.[50]

Goodfellow was noted for his wry humor. A gambler named McIntire was shot and killed during an argument over a card game. Goodfellow performed an autopsy on the man and wrote in his report that he had done "the necessary assessment work and found the body full of lead, but too badly punctured to hold whiskey."[11][51]

Treats O.K. Corral lawmen[edit]

Goodfellow treated Deputy U.S. Marshal Virgil Earp both after the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and after his left arm was shattered in ambushed one month later.
Goodfellow tended to Assistant Deputy U.S. Marshal Morgan Earp after the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and again when he was mortally wounded by an assassin.

During the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral on October 26, 1881, Deputy U.S. Marshal Virgil Earp was shot through the calf and Assistant Deputy U.S. Marshal Morgan Earp was shot across both shoulder blades. Doc Holliday was grazed by a bullet. Goodfellow treated both Earps's wounds.[52]:27 Cowboy Billy Clanton, who had been mortally wounded in the shootout, asked someone to remove his boots before he died, Goodfellow was present and obliged.[18]

After the gunfight, Ike Clanton filed murder charges against the Earps and Doc Holliday. Goodfellow reviewed Dr. H. M. Mathew's autopsy reports on the three outlaw Cowboys the Earps and Holiday had killed: Billy Clanton and brothers Tom and Frank McLaury.[11][53] Goodfellow's testimony about the nature of Billy Claiborne's wounds during the hearing supported the defendants' version of events,[7] that Billy's arm could not have been positioned holding his coats open by the lapels or raised in the air, as witnesses loyal to the Cowboys testified.[54]:218 Goodfellow’s testimony was helpful in exonerating the Earps and the judge ruled that the lawmen had acted in self-defense.[7]

Goodfellow treated Virgil Earp again two months later on December 28, 1881 after he was ambushed. At about 11:30 p.m. that night, three men hid in the upper story of an unfinished building across Allen Street from the Cosmopolitan Hotel where the Earps were staying for mutual support and protection. They shot him from behind as he walked from the Oriental Saloon to his room. They struck him in the back and left arm with three loads of double-barreled buckshot from about 60 feet (18 m).[55] Goodfellow advised Virgil that the arm ought to be amputated, but Virgil refused.[4] Goodfellow operated on Virgil in the Cosmopolitan Hotel using the medical tools he had in his bag, and asked George Parsons and another fellow to fetch some supplies from the hospital.[39] He removed more than 3 inches (76 mm) of shattered humerus bone from Virgil's left arm, leaving him permanently crippled.[56]

The next victim of the feud between the Cowboys and the Earps was Morgan Earp. At 10:50 p.m. on March 18, 1882, Morgan was playing a round of billiards at the Campbell & Hatch Billiard Parlor against owner Bob Hatch. Dan Tipton, Sherman McMaster, and Wyatt watched, having also received death threats that same day.[52]:38

An unknown assailant shot Morgan through a glass-windowed, locked door that opened onto a dark alley between Allen and Fremont Streets. Morgan was struck in the back on the left of his spine and the bullet exited the front of his body near his gall bladder[57] before lodging in the thigh of mining foreman George A. B. Berry. Morgan was mortally wounded and could not stand even with assistance. They laid him on a nearby lounge where he died within the hour. Drs. Matthews, Millar, and Goodfellow all examined Morgan. Even Goodfellow, recognized in the United States as the nation's leading expert at treating abdominal gunshot wounds, concluded that Morgan's wounds were fatal.[58]:97

As County Coroner, Goodfellow conducted Morgan Earp's autopsy.[1] He found that the bullet, "entering the body just to the left of the spinal column in the region of the left kidney emerging on the right side of the body in the region of the gall bladder. It certainly injured the great vessels of the body causing hemorrhage which undoubtedly causes death. It also injured the spinal column. It passed through the left kidney and also through the loin.”[59] The bullet passed through Morgan Earp and struck Berry in the thigh. Berry recovered from his wound.[35]

Coroner for John Heath[edit]

Main article: Bisbee Massacre
Tombstone citizens lynched John Heath (also spelled "Heith") on February 22, 1884. As Coroner, Goodfellow ruled he died of "strangulation, self-inflicted or otherwise."

On the morning of December 8, 1883, a group of outlaw Cowboys including Daniel "Big Dan" Dowd, Comer W. "Red" Sample, Daniel "York" Kelly, William E. "Billy" Delaney, and James "Tex" Howard robbed the Goldwater & Castaneda Mercantile which was rumored to be holding the $7,000 payroll for the Copper Queen Mine.[60][61] But the payroll had not yet arrived, and they decided to steal whatever they could take from the safe and the employees and customers. They stole between $900 and $3,000 along with a gold watch and jewelry. As two of the robbers left the store, the three men outside began shooting passersby, killing four people, including a pregnant woman and her unborn child. John Heath (sometimes spelled Heith) had been a cattle rustler in Texas, but since arriving in Arizona he had served briefly as a Cochise County deputy sheriff and had also opened a saloon. When the five bandits were caught, they quickly implicated Heath as the man who had planned the hold-up.[60][61][62][63] He was arrested and tried separately from the other five, who were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to hang.[18]

Heath was convicted of second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit robbery, and the judge reluctantly could only sentence him to a life term at the Yuma Territorial Prison. The citizens of Tombstone were outraged and broke into the jail, forcibly removing Heath and stringing him up from a nearby telegraph pole. Heath's last words were: "I have faced death too many times to be disturbed when it actually comes. ... Don't mutilate my body or shoot me full of holes!" Goodfellow, who was present at Heath's hanging, was County Coroner and responsible for determining the exact cause of death. His wry conclusion reflected the popular sentiment of the town. He ruled that Heath died from “...emphysema of the lungs which might have been, and probably was, caused by strangulation, self-inflicted or otherwise, as in accordance with the medical evidence.”[18]

Later life[edit]

In 1884, his father was a mining engineer in nearby Fairbank, Arizona, on the railroad line from Tucson to Nogales. His father died in 1887 in San Diego.

In 1886, Goodfellow reportedly rode with the U.S. Army who were attempting to recapture Geronimo[18] after he left the San Carlos Reservation against Army orders. During his escape, he and his warriors killed "fourteen Americans dead in the United States and between 500 and 600 Mexicans dead south of the border." After Geronimo was apprehended, Goodfellow, who spoke fluent Spanish and some Apache,[8] befriended Geronimo.[12]

1887 Sonora earthquake[edit]

Goodfellow on El Rosillo, a gift from Mexican President Porfirio Diaz.

When the Bavispe earthquake struck Sonora, Mexico, on May 3, 1887, it destroyed most of the adobe houses in Bavispe and killed 42 of the town's 700 residents.[64][65] Goodfellow spoke excellent Spanish and he loaded his wagon with medical supplies and rode 90 miles (140 km) to aid survivors. The townspeople named him El Doctor Santo (The Sainted Doctor), and in recognition of his humanitarian contributions, Mexican President Porfirio Diaz presented him with a silver medal that had belonged to Emperor Maximilian and a horse named El Rosillo.[66]

Sketch by Dr. George Goodfellow of the 1887 Sonora earthquake fault zone based on several weeks of field study. The U.S./Arizona border is shown at top.

Goodfellow was fascinated by the earth movement and studied the earthquake's effects. He noted that it was very difficult to pin down the time of the earthquake due to the absence of time pieces or a nearby railroad, and the primitive living standards of the area's residents.[67]

Goodfellow returned twice more, the second time in July with Tombstone photographer Camillus Sidney Fly, to study and record the effects of the earthquake. He traveled over 700 miles (1,100 km) through the Sierra Madre[disambiguation needed] mountains recording his observations, mostly on foot.[68] The United States Geological Service praised his "remarkable and creditable" report, describing it as "systematic, conscientious, and thorough."[67] On August 12, 1888, he wrote a letter following up on his initial report in the top U.S. scientific journal Science.[35][68][69]

It included the first surface rupture map of an earthquake in North America and photographs of the rupture scarp by C.S. Fly. The earthquake was at the time the “longest recorded normal-fault surface rupture in historic time.” It was later described as an “outstanding study” and a “pioneering achievement”.[64] Goodfellow developed a relationship with Mexican politician Ramon Corral and hosted him in 1904 when he visited San Francisco.[70]

Move to Tucson[edit]

Dr. John C. Handy of Tucson abused his wife and repeatedly threatened to kill her lawyer Francis J. Heney. When Handy assaulted Heney he was shot in the lower abdomen, and Goodfellow unsuccessfully tried to repair 18 perforations of his intestines.

Tombstone was by 1890 on the decline. The price of silver had fallen, many of its silver mines had been permanently flooded, and a number of residents had left.[71] Goodfellow's wife fell ill and died in Oakland at her mother-in-law's home in August, 1891. Goodfellow and their daughter Edith attended her funeral at Goodfellow's mother's home in Oakland, California on August 16.[6][72]

At noon on September 24, 1891, Goodfellow’s good friend and colleague Dr. John Handy was shot on the streets of Tucson. Handy had divorced his wife and now he was trying to evict her from the home the court had granted her. When she hired attorney Francis J. Heney, Handy repeatedly threatened to kill him. Handy's finger-trigger didn't keep up with his hair-trigger temper. He assaulted the attorney on the street that afternoon and Heney shot him in self-defense.[73] Goodfellow rode 24 miles (39 km) by horseback to Benson, Arizona where he caught a locomotive and caboose, set aside just for him, to Tucson. In an effort to save Handy, he took over the engine from the engineer and drove the train at high speed, and covered the 46 miles (74 km) in record time.[35] Goodfellow arrived in Tucson at 8:15 pm. Handy had been attended by Doctors Michael Spencer, John Trail Green, and Hiram W. Fenner until Goodfellow arrived.[23] and began operating on Handy at about 10:00 pm. He found 18 perforations in Handy’s intestines, which he immediately set about cleaning and closing. Goodfellow was too late and Handy died at 1:15 a.m., before Goodfellow could complete the surgery.[8]

After Handy's death, Goodfellow was invited to take over his Tucson practice, and he and his daughter Edith relocated there.[5] Goodfellow purchased the old Orndorff Hotel located near present-day City Hall and used it as a hospital.[8] He also practiced at St. Mary's Hospital in Tucson. He concurrently worked as a surgeon for the Southern Pacific Railroad from 1891-1896, where he became head surgeon.[1] He was appointed by Governor Louis C. Hughes in 1893 as the Arizona Territorial Health Officer, a position he held until 1896.[7] In 1896 he was living in Los Angeles and was listed in the 1897 Los Angeles City Directory.[6]

Further military service[edit]

He returned to Tucson in 1898 and later that year he became the personal physician[7] to his friend General William "Pecos Bill" Shafter during the Spanish–American War.[3] Appointed as a Major, he was in charge of the General's field hospital.[74]

Shafter relied on Goodfellow’s excellent knowledge of Spanish to help negotiate the final surrender after the Battle of San Juan Hill. Goodfellow attributed part his success to a bottle of “ol’ barleycorn” he kept handy in his medical kit which he properly prescribed to himself and Spanish General Jose Toral, lending a more convivial atmosphere to the conference.[18] Goodfellow was recognized with a commendation for his service that cited his "especially meritorious services professional and military".[12]

Practice in San Francisco[edit]

In late 1899 he moved to San Francisco and established his practice at 771 Sutter St. On January 19, 1900, he was appointed as the surgeon for the Sante Fe Railroad headquartered in San Francisco.[75][76] He was an active member of the Bohemian Club and attended their summer camp on the Russian River regularly.[77] On February 15, 1900, Wells Fargo Express Agent Jeff Milton, a friend of Goodfellow, arrived on board a train in Fairbank, near Benson, Arizona. Former lawman-turned-outlaw Burt Alvord and five other robbers attempted to rob an arriving train of its cash. Milton was seriously wounded in the left arm and the railroad dispatched a special engine and boxcar to transport Milton from Benson to Tucson for treatment. In Tucson, Dr. H. W. Fenner tied the shattered bone together with piano wire. When the wound wouldn't heal, he sent Milton to San Francisco where he could be seen by experts at the Southern Pacific Hospital there. They wanted to amputate his arm at the elbow, but he refused and got a ride to Dr. Goodfellow's office.[75] Goodfellow successfully cleaned and treated Milton's wound but told him he would never be able to use the arm again.[78] Milton's arm healed but was of little use and noticeably shorter than his right arm.

In April 1906, at the time of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Goodfellow had remarried and was living at the St. Francis Hotel. He lost all of his records and personal manuscripts in the hotel and his office to the earthquake and subsequent fire.[6] His finances were ruined and Goodfellow returned to the Southern Pacific Railroad where he was Chief Surgeon in Guaymas, Mexico from 1907 to 1910.[1]


Goodfellow fell ill in the summer of 1910 with an illness which he had reportedly been exposed to during the Spanish–American War. He sought treatment from his sister Mary's husband, Dr. Charles W. Fish, in Los Angeles. Over the next six months his health gradually declined, and soon he could no longer practice medicine.[12] He was hospitalized for several weeks at the end of 1910 at Angelus Hospital in Los Angeles.[79]

Goodfellow declared he didn't want to live any longer and on December 7, 1910, he died.[12] Alcoholism may have played a role in his death.[80] His brother-in-law gave his cause of death as "multiple neuritis", possibly for lack of a more specific cause.[30] Goodfellow was buried in the Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles.[81] His obituary attributed his death to a nervous breakdown.[82]


Goodfellow is credited as the United States' first civilian trauma surgeon.[83] By the late 1950s, mandatory laparotomy had become and remains the standard of care for managing patients with abdominal penetrating trauma.[34]

To recognize financial supporters, the University of Arizona School of Medicine established the George E. Goodfellow Society.[84]


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Additional reading[edit]

Chaput, Don (1996). Dr. Goodfellow: Physician to the Gunfighters, Scholar, and Bon Vivant. Tucson, Arizona: Westernlore Press. ISBN 978-0870260971. 
Trunkey, Donald D. (1975). Doctor George Goodfellow: The First Civilian Trauma Surgeon (reprint ed.). Franklin H. Martin Memorial Foundation. p. 8.